Every business owner wants to have a visually impressive site that makes users excited and comfortable, while simultaneously standing out from the competition and making it more likely for visitors to eventually convert. Unfortunately, none of that is possible without a strong brand at the center of it. Before you even start thinking about the layout of your site or how you’re going to appeal to customers, you need to have a number of strong brand assets, such as both digital and printed promotional materials, in your wheelhouse.
Why Branding Is So Important
Why is having a solid brand so important to a “good” site’s design anyway? These are just a few key reasons:
- First, you need a set of characteristics that are going to appeal to your target customers. If you create a site that’s loose, playful, and fun, it might end up aesthetically pleasing, but not to an audience of distinguished, conservative businesspeople. Knowing your brand identity will help you sort this out.
- Your site will also be a brand asset, serving as a hub for all your other marketing and promotional efforts. If you want to find and keep customers, you need to be consistent throughout all these applications.
- There are millions of businesses with millions of websites throughout the web, many of which will be selling the same things you are. Knowing your brand, inside and out, will help you differentiate yourself to your shared target audiences.
Assets to Acquire
All of these are reasons why you should have solid, foundational brand assets standing by before you start creating a new web design—regardless of whether you create them yourself or get them from other designers:
- A target audience. Though not technically defined as an “asset,” you still need to have a firm and complete understanding of your brand’s target audience before you start fiddling with web design choices. You need to know who your target demographics are, how they act, and how they might react to various elements of your website as you start designing them. Most people find it helpful to create and rely upon a “customer persona,” or a mockup character that represents the “average” member of their audience. This can help you focus your efforts more concretely, and serves as a near-tangible way to imagine your audience.
- A defined “brand personality.” You should also have a measurably defined outline of what your “brand personality” is. This is a vague term, but it refers to a number of different aspects of your brand. The best way to think about it is in terms of human personality traits. If your brand were a person, what type of person would it be? Young or old? Male or female? Outgoing or shy?
- Colors and iconography. Colors and iconography are usually the first brand assets created for a company, but they’re important not to neglect. What colors best represent your specific company, as well as the industry in which it resides? What does your logo look like and what feelings does it conjure up? Do you have any other icons, like mascots, seals, or symbols, that are important to understanding your brand? How might you use these throughout the site?
- Tone and voice. Though you may not be writing the copy for the website, you still need to know the tone and voice that your brand will be using. What kinds of words does your brand use to communicate with your audience? What feelings are you trying to encourage in your readers?
- Existing promotional material. You should also have some existing promotional materials from the company, fully adhering to your most recent brand standards—even if they’re just mockups. Take a look at how your brand looks when displayed on a banner ad, or in a brochure. It will help you get a sense for the type of messaging you need to convey.
How to Get Started
If you don’t already have brand assets ready to go, or if you need to build them from scratch, it can be intimidating to get started with everything yourself (especially with so many beautiful brand examples to ogle). If you’re not a branding expert, it may be wise to seek counsel from a professional—branding is not an area you can skimp on. Otherwise, start with the research and work from there; the more objective data you’re able to gather on your audience and your competitors, the better.